Speed Reads

Johnsplaining

John Oliver makes an impassioned case for vaccinating kids, with only a brief dig at Trump

There used to be a time when American parents would line up to vaccinate their kids like vaccines were the latest iPhone, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But despite vaccines saving millions of lives, "small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines, which is nothing new, but these days their voice has been amplified by the human megaphone that is the president of the United States." He showed some of President Trump's comments on the campaign trail, and subsequent tweets.

"This atmosphere of confusion about vaccines has caused real problems," Oliver said, pointing to the measles outbreak in Minnesota's Somali community. "So tonight, we are going to look at why these fears persist and what the consequences of succumbing to them can be. And before we start, I kind of get why vaccines can creep people out," he said, "although pretty much every medical practice sounds terrifying when you break it down," including the non-medical practice of basic exercise.

Oliver started with the elephant in the waiting room, the debunked link between autism and the MMR vaccine, started by the disgraced "Lance Armstrong of doctors," Andrew Wakefield. Despite losing his medical license, Wakefield still gives talks about vaccines and autism — including to Minnesota's Somali community, in 2011 — and he's joined by a motley crew that spans the political spectrum. "Now the good news is, these days, very few people will say they are completely anti-vaccine," Oliver said. "Instead, like the president, they'll say, 'I'm not anti-vaccine, but...' — and it's what comes after that 'but' that [we] need to look at tonight."

Oliver's main topic here was the idea that parents should space out vaccines, so young children don't get so many at once. He sided with the CDC on that one, and ridiculed Dr. Robert Sears, a famous pediatrician's less-famous son, noting that spreading out vaccinations for years leaves kids vulnerable to diseases like measles, which killed 134,200 kids worldwide in 2015 alone. "I honestly know for some people this is still hard, but what can help is to try and anchor yourself to what we know to be true about the risks of vaccines," he said. Oliver suggested that parents focus on the immense good vaccines have done rather than the scary Facebook anecdotes and memes, and he ended on a personal note. Watch below, but be warned: There is decidedly NSFW content spread throughout. Peter Weber